British Sea Power are one of the hardest working, most criminally underrated bands of the past 15 years. Since their debut in 2003 they’ve released a string of consistently great albums, performed excellent live shows (they always bring it) and worked the festival circuit tirelessly. Despite this, they’ve never quite reached the heights of mainstream success, nor have they achieved the status of “critical darlings” that they almost definitely deserve.
If that hasn’t got you sold on British Sea Power, lets allow the music to do the talking as we highlight some of their key tracks.
Carrion narrowly edges out Remember Me as the best track from the first album, The Decline Of British Sea Power, mainly because my love of puns makes the conflation of “carry on” and “carrion” irresistible. Carrion establishes a number of recurring themes for the band: kicking off a song with atmospheric noise before launching into a killer guitar riff; poetic, oblique lyrics (‘Can stone and steel and horses heels ever explain the way you feel/From Scapa flow to Rotherhithe, I felt the lapping of an ebbing tide’); a dreamlike vocal delivery. An all-round cracker.
While every bit as anthemic as the official song of the 2010 World Cup it shares a name with, this song is actually good. And is also unlikely to be used to flog Coca Cola any time soon. Another belter of a guitar intro with some seriously biting lyrics, satirising traditional British traits, like alcohol dependance (“It just tastes good/ Especially tonight”), and aggressive patriotism/casual xenophobia (“Well, welcome in from across the Vistula, you've come so very far / All waving flags”). Astronomical.
Living Is So Easy
This tune from 2011’s Valhalla Dancehall has a strict “guitars out, synths in” policy. Opening with a metronomic Krautrock drum loop, the song is pleasantly reminiscent of a soundtrack to a 90s point and click adventure game. Following familiar themes of isolation, being left out of the crowd, and of course death, this song is basically catnip for the modern indie fan: “Everyone is going to the party, and we know that you will understand, no? Oh.”
Opening on a more subdued note, with an early Arcade Fire-esque string arrangement, No Lucifer then flies into a Kasabian style chant of “EASY, EASY, EASY, EASY!” Thankfully There’s a lot more going on than shallow lad rock. The frenetic pace of the vocals (and the song in general) masks some fairly deep WWII imagery - “To the anti-aircraft crew, / The boys from the Hitler youth” - the loss of childhood innocence and seeing the grey areas between good and evil.
How Will I Ever Find My Way Home
“I’m leaving here, get me out of this place.” We’ve all been there, and there’s probably not a single indie band on the planet who haven’t used this feeling as the basis for a song. Very few evoke the feeling as well as British Sea Power do in this song. For a band that tend towards the ambiguous, reading between the lines the lyrics, How Will I Ever Find My Way Home sees the band playing it straight, simple and rebellious. The result is glorious.
The Spirit of St Louis
This early track was released as the lead song on a Japan only EP release, knowledge of which, if nothing else, will cement your position with the cool kids in the crowd. Driven by a relentless snare drum, and with lead singer Yan channelling Iggy Pop at his most manic, the song is an example of the band at their best even without the lush production found on their later albums.